IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — A unique collaboration of regional universities is
expected to lead to enhanced opportunities for research, higher education and
job creation throughout the Inland Northwest. Among the first anticipated
impacts of the collaboration are advancements in environmental cleanup
technologies.

Seven universities formed the Inland Northwest Research Alliance in the
spring of 1999. The member universities include Boise State, Idaho State, the
University of Idaho, Montana State, the University of Montana, Utah State
and Washington State.

INRA is a partner with Bechtel BWXT Idaho, the corporation responsible for
managing and operating the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental
Laboratory near Idaho Falls. In its managing role, INRA will help set the
direction for scientific research performed at INEEL.

In the past the INEEL site was used for nuclear reactor research and storage of
nuclear waste from America’s defense programs, which left contamination
below the surface of the land. Today, INEEL scientists work in a wide range of
disciplines with a major emphasis on the development of environmental
cleanup technologies.

University of Idaho President Robert Hoover says INRA gives the institutions
involved a chance to collaborate with the national lab on some major
environmental problems. “The immediate goal will be to develop new science
that will help us understand the transport of materials in the subsurface. We
don’t have a very good sense today of what happens to contaminants
underground. There is not much data and there is no predictive model.”

The collaboration will also help each of the INRA universities meet education
goals and advance scientific knowledge. “This is an opportunity for contracts
and grants, to increase the research strengths of the member institutions. It is
also an opportunity for graduate study and all the things we seek to do in
higher education,” says Hoover.

Over the next 10 years, INEEL expects to add some 1,000 Ph.D. positions.
Many of these individuals will be educated by INRA institutions.

The presidents of the INRA schools recently appointed an interim
management team for the alliance. James Petersen, Washington State chemical
engineering professor and director of WSU’s Center for Multiphase
Environmental Research, serves as interim executive director. A search for a
permanent director is expected to conclude within six months.

The interim management team also includes Roy Mink, a University of Idaho
professor and director of the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute, and
Jim Stout, who serves as legal counsel for the group.

“Our first task will be learning in greater depth the capabilities of the various
INRA institutions and developing ways to integrate them to better serve the
region, including an integrated, comprehensive research and education
package,” says Petersen.

Representatives from INEEL will be visiting the seven INRA campuses during
the next two months. They will meet with university researchers and discuss
potential collaborative projects.

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